Monday, September 15, 2008

A Bit Hard

Yesterday the Sunday Times review was devoted to The Future of the Book, yet I can't find a link on the website - which may seem confirmation of the view expressed by some contributors that print media is getting left behind by the web. But maybe it's me...*

[*Yes it was me: it was The Independent, as Adele Geras points out. No wonder I couldn't find it: silly me!]

Pretty depressing article by John Walsh who believes like Sven Birkets (who in 1994 examined how students now respond to Henry James) that the way in which the internet has taught us to read is resulting in a loss of the ability to engage with serious fiction:
It seems that we may be losing the capacity of "settling into" a book or - more importantly - in the stream of somebody else's thoughts in a way that readers (and writers) once took for granted ... Now, many serious writers complain, challenging fiction doesn't appeal; "difficult" novels don't sell. Adam Mars-Jones's massive and beautifully written novel Pilcrow, published earlier this year, sold only a few hundred copies, and there have been several similar casualities. Although, traditionally, every Booker winner invariably becomes a world bestseller, the 2008 winner, Anne Enright's The Gathering, made the briefest appearance in the top 10 before disappearing. It had a narrative of sorts, but was broken-backed in structure and its strength was the narrator's wry, funny, piss-taking tone - exactly the kind of thing that Prof Birkets' students hated in Henry James.

To sell now, books evidently need to be big on plot and incident, short on interior monologue - the sort of titles the Richard and Judy Club strenuously promotes.

4 comments:

adele said...

Wasn't it the Independent? Or the Telegraph? Not the ST in any case, I'm sure...but a very gloomy article, I agree.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Whoops, yes, it was the Independent! thnaks for that, Adele.

Caroline said...

Thanks for the article link, it was very interesting. But was I the only one who found it insulting? People wouldn't have the attention span to read Tolstoy on an ebook reader!? What a load of rubbish! Great blog though :)

Elizabeth Baines said...

Yes, I think we adjust to new technologies more easily than we sometimes think we will...